In the world of DS games there are usually two types of titles: those that are fairly simple in execution but sometimes fun, and those that try to reflect what can be done on a console, only on a smaller scale. City Interactive's Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun is a game that is extremely simple in execution, but aims to be the perfect title for the pick-up-and-play DS gamer. Does it succeed? Read on to find out.
Vampire Moon’s story has players taking on the role of Emily Davis, a naÃ¯ve young writer called to Transylvania for a story. Along the way, Emily must venture through the various spooky locales associated with a vampire title, like swamps, graveyards, and dank basements. As the story progresses, Emily discovers a hidden web of lies involving Dracula’s bloodline and Van Helsing’s quest to end said bloodline. Unfortunately, the story is so threadbare that it doesn’t affect the player in any meaningful way, and simply plays out in text based conversations and diary entries. After a point, gamers will find themselves anxiously pressing a button to get back to the meat of the game.
Not that the meat of the game is anything to hurry back to, but it’s certainly more engaging than the story. Essentially, Vampire Moon is a series of hide and seek puzzles that require players to find a set of objects that are hidden within a hand drawn background. Some objects are hidden in ways that are not too difficult to spot, while other items are laughably concealed. Once every hidden item has been found and selected, the game progresses through a quick bout of dialogue and then moves onto the next hand drawn background, in which another set of items are hidden. Unfortunately, for 90% of the game, that’s it.
There are a very small number of puzzles that might vaguely resemble some of the easiest challenges in a Professor Layton game, but they are so few and far between that players will forget them soon after completion. Vampire Moon’s gameplay breaks down into a series of hide and seek mini-games. Yes, the backgrounds and items change, but the mechanic is the same throughout the entire experience. There is no logic behind any of the items either, as most of them -- for example a cat, a star, or a chess piece -- have no bearing on the story whatsoever. Each item is selected simply for its ability to blend in with the background, and some are able to do so very well. For players who get stuck, there is a hint button that acts as more of an "it's over here" button, pointing out exactly where the item is hidden.
Challenge is minimal and the game is over in about two or three hours, but the fact is that there is absolutely no motivation to progress through the game. At first, the puzzles suggest a hint of variety and some semblance of connection to the storyline, but eventually they devolve into a rote formula. There are various superfluous items scattered around each area that make for confusing distractions, and upon revisiting each area (which players will do at least twice) those are usually the items players are tasked to find. Other times the game requires that players find the same item they discovered the first time around, in the exact same place it was before.
The only real silver lining for Vampire Moon is that it could enjoy a somewhat happy life as an iPhone port. Its pick-up-and-play puzzles are perfect for a quick, no-nonsense distraction to pass the time, but that’s where the utility ends. As a DS title, it doesn’t hold a candle to the terrific puzzlers that gamers have come to expect. Developer City Interactive may have thought they had a simple and engaging game on their hands, but really the game is just plain simple.
At the end of Vampire Moon, most players will be left with an empty feeling. The game's story is razor thin, its gameplay poses no challenge, and the whole experience is extremely unfulfilling. For all these reasons,Vampire Moon can only be recommended to the most die-hard fans of hidden object games.
Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun is available now for the Nintendo DS.